Friday, May 18, 2007

On The Issue of Conceptual Property, Conceptual Narcissism, Conceptual Respect, and Conceptual Integrating

I offer an updated version of this 2007 essay. I am looking at this essay now in January, 2011, almost 4 years later, and wish to go back and make some editiorial adjustments and clarifications...dgb, Jan. 29th, 2011.


Good day! My name is David Bain. I am 52 years old (55 years old now -- ouch!). I have an Honours B.A. in Psychology with an academic and experiential background in both Gestalt Therapy and Adlerian Psychology, as well as being self-taught in Psychoanalysis and the history of Western Philosophy and Clinical Psychology. (added, Jan. 2011).

I am in the process of writing a network of 26 blogsites (that has extended to 50 blogsites now, added Jan. 2011) with a varying number of essays in each blogsite.

My goals are at least twofold:

1. To teach the history and evolution of Western Dialectic Philosophy-Psychology with my own editorial comments along the way.

2. To integrate ALL major schools of philosophy and psychology in such a way that they all have a role to play, and a 'room' and/or 'floor' to call their own -- in 'Hegel's Hotel'. (added Jan. 2011.)

The work as a whole is called: 'Hegel's Hotel: Where Philosophers and Psychologists Meet' (added Jan. 2011) and each blogsite is referred to as a 'floor' in Hegel's Hotel.

Within the confines of these 26 (50, Jan. 2011) different blogsites or floors of Hegel's Hotel, I will be writing on a wide assortment of different topics pertaining to philosophy, psychology, politics, religion, and more...

Obviously, I don't have enough time in my life to go hugely in depth into each and everyone of these areas. However, within each realm, I will bring my unique, post-Hegelian, integrative approach to what I want to say -- and, in the process, connect each essay, each blogsite, to my overall thesis which is that 'integrative dialectical evolution' is a process that can be taught and applied to all areas of human culture, living, and activity in a way that is often if not usually superior to an 'adversarial form of righteous-either/or philosophy and lifestyle'.

'Either/or' and 'right and wrong' belong to 'Aristolean Logic' which is what we are indoctrinated with in our schools, parliamentary debates, courts, newspapers, and places of business. (added Jan. 2011).

A is A, and B is B, and never the two should meet. They are mutually exclusive -- separated by their mutually exclusive, distinctive properties. (added Jan. 2011).

In contrast, 'Hegelian Dialectic Logic' tends to be more dialectically engaging, dynamic, process oriented, looking at how A and B interact with each other, and how A influences B while, at the same time, B influences A. They both mutually influence each other and affect each other's history and evolution. This is the logic that G.W. Hegel laid down in his revolutionary philosophical treatise, 'The Phenomemonology of Spirit', 1807, at least partly as a replacement for Aristotlean Logic (although Aristotlean Logic still has its place in certain contexts where there is no evidence of mutual dialectic influence and/or accountability). (added Jan. 2011)

I am looking to reach both introductory and advanced academic and/or professional audiences that are interested in the study of philosophy and/or psychology. (added Jan. 2011)

There is a sense in which I could very easily be called a 'Gestalt philosopher' in that what I am trying to do is to introduce a type of 'dialectic hot seat' to most of the essays I write here -- with an 'integration' or 'synthesis' between 2 or more competing perspectives, theories, concepts, paradigms, etc.

For a period of 12 years -- from 1979 to 1991 with 'gaps of non-involvement', I was, at different times during this overall period, very intensely and intimately tied up to what I was learning at the Gestalt Institute in Toronto.

I had good contacts with a lot of friends I met there, and had/have a lot of respect for the teachings of Gestalt therapists Jorge Rosner (deceased), Joanne Greenham (the present leader of The Gestalt Institute of Toronto), and other leaders and workshop participants.

Now here I am writing a 'philosophical treatise and forum'
that both draws upon the essence of Gestalt Theory, Therapy, and Philosophy as well as extending Gestalt Therapy's conceptual, theoretical, and therapeutic boundaries both back into history as well as into a 'more conceptually integrative future'. (added Jan, 2011)

This is my broader philosophical and psychological project which I am not sure that The Gestalt Institute shares with me. In a sense, there is a paradox or dichotomy between the 'structure of Gestalt Therapy' that maintains and holds onto dearly certain philosophical and theoretical boundaries, vs. the 'dialectic, dynamic process' of Gestalt Therapy that aims to 'break through many existing Aristotlean either/or boundaries' in order to reach a more 'harmonious, unified, homeostatically balanced integrative existential state'. In this sense, there is an inherent contradiction between the 'structure' and the 'process' of Gestalt Therapy. Because the dialectic dynamics of Gestalt Therapy -- if applied to Gestalt Therapy itself -- would inevitably 'change' the theoretical, therapeutic, and/or philosophical boundaries of Gestalt Therapy. And that, to my knowledge, hasn't happened in all the years that I was there -- and since I left in 1991. (added Jan. 2011)

So, yes there is indeed a heavy Gestalt influence in most of the essays that I have written in Hegel's Hotel.

However, there are many other influences as well: Hegel, Nietzsche, Freud, Jung, Adler, Korzybski, Hawakawa, Erich Fromm, Nathaniel Branden, Ayn Rand, Schopenhauer, Foucault, Derrida, Sartre, Kierkegaard, Jefferson, Diderot, Montasquieu, Kant, Fichte, Locke, Spinoza, the Han Philosophers, Heraclitus, Anaxamander...

So this is not all about Gestalt Therapy being applied to the broader domain of Hegel's Hotel philosophy-psychology.

And yet in a partial sense -- a good size partial sense -- it is. It is not entirely by accident that many of my philosophical influences are the same ones who influenced Perls and the evolution of Gestalt Therapy -- for example, Freud, Jung, Korzybski, Hegel, Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, Heraclitus...

It was through studying Gestalt Therapy that I first became seriously connected to Hegel's philosophical work -- and it was this connection, this bridge if you will, that led me backwards from the study of psychology into the study of philosophy. I largely left behind my study of psychology in 1991, and have been studying philosophy -- through books and the internet -- from 1991 to 2007, still continuing. (That is not exactly true in that I did become involved in the Freud-Masson Seduction Theory Controversy, and lately, (2010-11), I have started to write a whole host of new psychology essays that are designed to lay out the boundaries of what I am currently calling, 'Gap-DGB Quantum-Integrative Psychoanalysis'.

There is a sense in which almost everything I have developed in this network of blogsites, in each essay, I learned either from watching or experiencing the 'hotseat' in Gestalt Therapy.

But the hotseat was a therapeutic invention by Perls that combined the Hegelian dialectic (thesis, anti-thesis, and synthesis) with Nietzschean existential urgency and Kierkgaardian immediacy.

The purpose of the hotseat and empty chair technique -- one chair with the therapeutic client sitting in it, the other seat facing him or her, empty -- was to help a person 'to gain better contact with a person who wasn't present, or to gain better contact with a part of the client's own personality (i.e., usually between a more dominant side of the personality -- what Jung called the 'personna') -- and an opposing, more suppressed and neglected side (what Jung called 'The Shadow'. (added Jan, 2011).

Through this process, a person, 'dialectically alienated' from a particular part of his or herself, could work hard in the hotseat with openess, honesty, and immediacy to become more 'dialectically integrated' through the therapeutic synthesis of opposing parts in his or her personality. This is the therapeutic purpose of The Gestalt Hotseat.

Hegel's Hotel (Gap-DGB) philosophy-psychology may not generally include the raw immediacy of hot seat work but it does contain the process of 'dialectical opposition', 'dialectical contact', 'dialectical negotiation', and 'dialectical integration'.

In Gap-DGB philosophy-psychology, I may at this point be stepping away from the most dramatic existential dynamics of the human psche in its rawest immediacy, as seen through hot seat and empty chair work.

However, I am expanding this process to each and every part of human culture and activity -- and then we will come back and connect what we have learned from this philosophical adventure into such areas as narcissism, epistemology, ethics, business and economics, politics, law, science and medicine, spirituality and religion -- to psychology again.

What goes around comes around. What is projected (viewed as if it is a 'movie' out there) into any and/or every aspect of our social lives, comes from within our own personality, our own psyche, as an 'internal movies' before it becomes an 'external movie'.

The world -- and particularly man's culture both collectively and privately -- is very much a reflection of a man's character, and in both a good and a bad sense, at the same time, his or her personal narcissism.

Personal and collective narcissism very much dominates the human psyche. Which is not to say that there isn't an important place and a need for the balance and equillibrium of the opposite of human narcissism which includes such things as: altruism, generosity, caring, love, social sensitivity, empathy, helping one's friends and neighbours, caring about the state of the environment, and the like.

There is an important place for a good balance of both narcissism and altruism in man's psyche, in the projections of his or her psyche into culture, and in the structure and process of any human philosophy, psychology, politics, and the rest.

I watch politicians fight with each other in parliament, treat each other disrespectfully, as each and everyone of them chases after a narcissistic, either/or, right or wrong, ideology -- as if theirs was the only 'right' ideology on the face of the earth.

Sometimes the 'game' they seem to be playing, the 'show' they seem to be putting on, reminds me of something I might see on television wrestling. But if it is not all 'game' and 'show' and politicians actually believe that they are being 'righteously real', then someone needs to show these politicians how to better work with each other, not against each other.

The dialectic can be used righteously, manipulatively and maliciously -- 'narcissisticly' is the word I will generally use (see my essays on narcissism) -- or it can be used judiciously and integratively, utilizing a combination of reason, compassion, common sense, empathy, humanism, ethics, a balance of personal assertiveness (and in this regard narcissism in a good sense to the extent that it is kept in line by giving room for the rights and wishes of others) with social altruism.

The same goes for corporations vs. unions or non-union employees, natural health medicine vs. standard, orthodox Western medicine, sports owners vs. athletes taking into account the fans, indeed, any type of human conflict where people have a choice between acting reasonably with each other vs. going off ballistically with each other because they can't see past their own personal narcissism.

As for the issue of my 'classification' as a philosopher, and whether I can or should be called a 'Gestalt philosopher' -- someone who has learned from Gestalt Therapy and extrapolated on these lessons into the realm of philosophy, politics, medicine, religion, art, and the like -- well that is a dialect in its own right between me and members of The Gestalt Institute who I haven't really talked to since 1991. The prodigal son may one day return back to some of his main roots and foundations. Or not.

In the meantime, a lot of this 'labelling' and 'conceptualization' and 'classification' and 'boundary' business depends on where you want to draw the line, and based on what reason. Property, money, narcissism, a personal belief in right and wrong -- or perhaps alternatively, an integrative, always expanding, vision of the enlightenment and evolution of mankind.

Gestalt Therapy has its own ideational space and boundaries which can be differentiated from Psychoanalysis or Jungian Psychology or Adlerian Therapy or Rational-Emotive Therapy or Behaviorism or any of a hundred different schools of psychology and psychotherapy.

Again, I make the distinction between 'either/or' evolution vs. 'integrative evolution'. When a man and woman create a baby, there is a mixture of 'either/or' evolution and 'integrative evolution' going on here.

The child may have the ears of the father, the nose of the mother. The child may look exactly like the mother or the father. This is 'either/or' evolution. Perhaps the father's genes dominate, or the mother's genes dominate and the child almost looks like a clone of the parent with the dominant genes.

Or the child can be seen to have a mixture of both parents genes and here we can see the process of 'integrative evolution'. The concept of 'biological diversity' is very much tied up to what I am calling here integrative evolution.

Now let us leave the world of biology and enter the world of philosophy, psychology, conceptuology, and/or ideology. The same two evolutionary processes exist with sometimes either/or evolution dominating, other times integrative evolution dominating.

Indeed, the whole ideational evolution process becomes more complicated -- and unfortunately often stagnated into non-evolution -- when you introduce such factors as: capitalism, money, property, corporations, patencies, people's livlihoods, etc...

With the additions of such factors, people not only get narcissistic about their money and their property and their choices of what they want to do -- they also get narcissistic about their ideas. Somewhere back in the 1980s or 90s, I called this phenomenon 'conceptual narcissism'.

Now here is the point: often conceptual evolution and conceptual narcissism collide and conflict with each other, do battle with each other, and become a dialectic in its own particular right, either good or bad, or both. Metaphorically speaking, one might ask the question: 'Which ideational gene is going to dominate? -- the 'narcissitic-either/or gene' or the 'integrative-evolution' gene?

Example. In the 1970s Jeffrey Masson was a fast-rising psychoanalyst and writer. He worked his way up the steep ranks of the many different Psychoanalytic Institutes in both North America and Europe. He got right up to the top -- to Anna Freud -- and was given free access to the Freud Archives. But a funny thing happened on the way to the forum. Masson got into the Freud Archives and he didn't like what he was reading. The issue was Freud's abandonment of his 'traumacy and seduction theory' around 1896-1897. In its place, Freud developed his (in)famous inter-related theories of distorted childhood memories, childhood sexuality and the Oedipal Complex.

Masson basically came to the conclusion that these latter three theories were garbage -- and that worse than that -- they tended to perpetuate female childhood sexual assault and traumacy by 'non-legitimizing' them. That is, according to post-1900 Classical Psychoanalytic and Oedipal Theory, a woman's 'memory' of a childhood sexual assault and/or seduction would be taught to psychoanalysts to be generally and stereotpically 're-interpreted' as a 'childhood fantasy', not a real memory, due to the young girl's and/or later teenage girl's standard romantic and sexual infatuation with her father. Thus, very few female childhood sexual assaults were being interpreted as such. In Masson's words, they were basically being 'clinically suppressed'. No more childhood sexual assaults in Psychoanalysis because most, if not all, of them were being re-interpreted by psychoanalysts everywhere as 'distorted memories based on underlying female childhood sexuality fantasies'.

Masson broke this scandal open, first in the New York Times in the late 1970s, then in his hugely controversial book, 'The Assault on Truth: Freud's Suppression of the Seduction Theory'. (1984, 1985, 1992 by Jeffrey Masson)

Not unexpectedly, Masson's book didn't go over very well at all with the many different Psychoanalytic Institutes. He was evicted from some and resigned from others. And now he is living in New Zealand and writing books about emotions in animals. No real resolution to the controversy. Psychoanalysts defended themselves saying that they had the freedom to interpret 'childhood assaults' if they believed one happened. Aside from that, the conflict seems to have bascially gone underground again -- I cannot say for sure because I have not followed the various evolutions and/or non-evolutions of various Psychoanalytic schools of thought. I think many of them have discarded classical Oedipal theory and moved on to different schools of Object Relations and Self Theory. Some -- I do not know what percentage -- have remained loyal to Freud's original Classical/Oedipal theory. If you are a woman who knows that you were sexually assaulted as a child or young teenager, then I would probalby be thinking twice about engaging in Classical Psychoanalysis. There is definitely, in my mind, some element of truth in Masson's book -- if not a lot of truth. The many Psychoanalytic Institutes should not have pushed Masson's book and thoughts aside so quickly and rudely. As embarrasing as it might have been, they should have probably ideally used it as a starting point for the beginning of their own 'private organizational Psychonalysis'. Maybe this has already partly happened. Or maybe Classical Psychoanalysis is going the way of the dinosaur as newer and more flexible brands of Object Relations and Self Theories of Psychoanalysis slowly phase it out. Once again I believe in the value of the dialectic and in smart theorists and therapists using the dialectic to full functional advantage. From my perspective -- and I am far from the first person to say this -- it seems that Classical Psychoanalysis if it wants to stay alive and to have any kind of credibility and trust with the general public, especially women, needs to 'feminize' itself and to discard all ideas and practices that discriminate against women in order to bring it into the 21st century. Classical Psychoanalysis cannot be teaching its student psychoanalysts that memories are to be viewed as 'distortions' and as 'symbolic fantasies', particularly relevent to women who come into clinical therapy with memories of childhood sexual assaults. Therapy cannot be dictated by theoretical biases because life can never be comparmentalized, and life will never always follow one set of theoretical biases. But all else being equal, a therapist has got to at least tentatively accept a client's memories as being real until there is strong and overuling evidence to suggest otherwise. A therapist may never know the 'objective truth' -- to be sure a client's thoughts, feelings, and memories are filled with their own subjective biases -- which is why it may be very dangerous on a client's memories alone to all of a sudden start accusing a particular parent, sibling, relative, or family friend, and dragging him into a court of law. There has got to be strong supporting evidence and for the most part I believe that that is outside the therapist's realm of responsibility. The therapist's responsibility is to help the client work through his or her personal issues and get better. Therapeutic epistemology is not necessarily legal truth. Indeed, the distortion of the client's private epistemology may be one of the main reasons why the client is in therapy (although, to be sure, the client is not likely to agree). This does not mean that you automatically assume that the client is wrong or that you automatically substitute a 'pre-canned theory' into the place of the client's verbalizations. I don't mean to come across as a seasoned therapist here but to me it means that you 'go with the flow', at least until you realize that your client's flow is going to take you over Niagara Falls. I think Freud might have had this experience once or twice, if not more often. There was a reason Freud mainly abandoned his traumacy-seduction theory and I think that his later perception of the 'truth-value' of some or all of his clients confessions probably had a lot to do with it. I do not necessarily buy into any or all of Masson's proposed 'cover-up' and 'Freud's lack of integrity' theories. However, you can never count out the influence of human narcissism -- not with Freud or anybody. Freud's scientific and medical stability and his ability to make an income for his family might have both been seriously negatively affected by his bringing the problem of 'childhood incest' into the open. If I see my boss fire a driver, two drivers, ten drivers, and I don't like the reasons that he is firing them, I have a choice -- and so do the other employees I work with who are seeing the same thing. I can tell him that I don't like what he did, or I can listen to him rant, nod my head, and keep my mouth shut. In other words, my dominant reaction was not to 'rock the boat' in order to not put my own job into jeopardy. Has my integrity been compromised? Probably. However, without trying to justify or rationalize this, I imagine that there are probably thousands of people who go to work each day, see what they don't like, see what they believe is ethically wrong -- and do or say nothing. The 'silent majority'. This is how 'corporate narcissism' grows, corrupts, and poisons people's outlook in the work field. To be sure, it is very possible that Freud was not immune to 'folding his cards' under this type of professional and economic pressure. After Freud folded his traumacy-seduction cards -- if that is what he did, or alternatively believed that he was scientifically and clinically right in doing so -- then it would, to my limited knowledge, be more than 60 years before the issue of 'childhood incest' would rise again to public awareness as feminism began to rise in the 1960s. From a woman's standpoint, it is too bad that Freud did not stick to his pre-1897 observations, generalizations, and conclusions. But sometimes human evolution takes a step -- or more -- backwards.

Another example. What would happen if a psychoanalyst ever decided to abandon his or her use of the 'therapeutic couch' and borrow instead the 'hotseat' from Gestalt Therapy? Would this psychoanalyst still be called a psychoanalyst? Probably not by his psychoanalytic peers and superiors. Would he or she more appropriately be called a 'Gestalt Psychoanalyst'? Perls went this direction -- trained originally I believe in Kleinian Psychoanalysis or Object Relations (I will have to check this.) -- until he decided at some point to 'dump' the couch and develop the hotseat. Soon he was called just a Gestalt Therapist.

Integrative evolutions have happed often enough in the psychotherapy business, as much as they are often discouraged, even blacklisted and scandalized. Some theorists and therapists have integrated Adlerian Psychology and Psychoanalysis. Some theorists and therapists have integrated various forms of Cognitive Therapy with Gestalt Therapy. Perls partly did this himself. He liked Korysbski and General Semantics.

Back in the 1980s, I was integrating Gestalt Therapy, Adlerian Psychology, and Psychoanalysis -- which is how I got 'GAP Psychology. Cognitive Therapy, humanistic-existentialism, and Jungian psychology also eventually had an impact on my thinking.

Conceptualizations, classifications, and labels can be stretched or re-tightened according to our wishes and agenda. It could be argued that Freud was a Gestalt Therapist before he was a Psychoanalyst -- much of Freud's early work in the 1990s on traumacy theory could easily be viewed as the real foundation of Gestalt Therapy (before Freud decided to go a different theoretical direction).

Anaxamander and Heraclitus can be viewed as the first two 'dialectical theorists' in Western philosophy and the precursors of everyone from Kant to Fichte to Hegel to Marx to Nietzsche to Freud to Jung to Perls. Anaxamander can also be called the first 'evolutionist' -- some 2000 years plus before Hegel or Darwin.

What is the moral of everything that is being said in this essay. How about this? When you are all ready to get your shorts tied tightly in a knot and turn purple with rage over protecting an idea, a concept, a theory, a philosophy, a paradigm, an ideology, a religous belief, ask yourself this: Can integrative evolution take me to a better place that is better for me and better for the people around me? And if so, then why am I holding on so tightly, so emotionaly, to an idea that may be a better idea once it is blended with other different and maybe even opposing ideas. Every seen a parent and a child fighting over 'curfew'? I have seen or heard indirectly of some of the worst fights you could possibly imagine. 15 year old girls evicted from their homes. Come on, what's with this? Rage is probably the best personal indicator -- to be sure often but not always -- that it may be time to think 'negotiate, compromise, integrate'; not 'I am right, you are wrong'.


db, May 20th, 2007, partly upgrade Jan. 29th, 2011.


Evan said...

Wow. What a fabulous post and project. Wishing you every possible success witht the building of Hegel's hotel.

I love gestalt, especially the theory. I think Perls, Hefferline and Goodman remains unsurpassed.

I've never trained in a formal course - I think I'm too independant and gestalt seems to have very much compromised with the powers that be and sold its birthright for a mess of recognition (and high salaries, let us not forget).

I think the big issue for gestalt to confront is professionalism. I'll be fascinated to see if this turns up in Hegel's hotel.

I also think you are doing what gestalt should be doing, assimilating, integrating and building. Gestalt is so stuck!

So once again heart-felt thanks and wishes for your success.

david gordon bain said...

Thank you for your feedback. I'm sorry it took so long for me to find it. I am writing in about 25 different blogsites on different subject matters according to my mood at the time, and don't always return quickly to papers I have already written. Regardless, feedback like yours, Evan is it? (sorry but your name is blocked out now in the feedback comment from my reading it), is inspirational to me, and encourages me to keep writing, knowing that at least some of my writing is hitting its desired audience and getting the reception I am looking for. Thank you very much for your comments. They are much appreciated. Dave Bain